Almost immediately following the FAA’s announcement yesterday of their drone registration program, Task Force members, drone industry representatives and consumers posted their reactions to the news.
Players in the commercial drone industry – unaffected by the new rules – and the Airline Pilots Association (ALPA) were predictably in favor of the regulation, with drone hobbyists and manufacturers against: but almost nobody was entirely happy with all of the details of the plan.
Hobbyists, their supporters, and manufacturers expressed their frustration with the FAA through published statements and social media yesterday, most focused on the $5 registration fee but also questioning the efficacy of the system to significantly effect safety in the National Airspace. The registration fee is in direct conflict with the recommendations of the FAA’s registration task force, which suggested that there be no fee or a merely nominal fee in order to encourage broad adoption of the registration program.
Douglas Johnson, VP Technology of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), a member of the Registration Task Force, published this statement: “We appreciate the FAA’s decision to embrace many of the Task Force’s recommendations regarding a consumer drone registration system. However, we disagree with the decision to impose a five-dollar registration fee – a ‘drone tax,’ which will hamper registration and discourage compliance.”
Brendan Schulman (@dronelaws), DJI’s drone law specialist, tweeted: “The Task Force question that wasn’t,” including a copy of the FAA’s questions to the task force (which asked if a fee should be enacted) followed by the FAA response to the recommendations, stating that a fee is required by statute; begging the obvious question of why the FAA bothered to present the point for discussion.
The Small UAV Coalition questioned the weight requirements (.55 pounds to 55 pounds) as unreasonable on the low end, and also weighed in on the fee. “…the Small UAV Coalition is concerned that certain aspects of the system will hinder widespread compliance and therefore detract from the safety and accountability mission. In particular, the UAS Registration Task Force recommended that there be no fee associated with registration as a means of boosting compliance, and therefore, safety. The $5 fee to cover administrative costs may prevent users from registering for both convenience and cost, especially in the case of small toy-like UAVs.”
Drone expert Eric Cheng, formerly the director of Aerial Imaging at DJI, told NewsShooter that while most in the industry supported the FAA’s goal of safety, he doubted that the registration program would have the desired result, pointing out that the system does not actually meet all of the agency’s goals: “The new registration scheme, as described, does create a roundabout accountability trail that solves for the lost (and found) drone situation, but it doesn’t help in some notably-problematic scenarios. Specifically, a tiny registration number affixed to a small drone doesn’t help identification from a distance (an actual scenario specified in the DOT’s first press briefing about registration), and is also unlikely to help if a drone is obliterated after being sucked into an airplane engine.”
The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) was direct in their condemnation of the program. In a statement released yesterday, Dave Mathewson, executive director, said: “AMA is disappointed with the new rule for UAS registration. As a member of the task force that helped develop recommendations for this rule, AMA argued that registration makes sense at some level and for UAS flyers operating outside the guidance of a community-based organization or flying for commercial purposes. Unfortunately, the new rule is counter to Congress’s intent in the Special Rule for Model Aircraft and makes the registration process an unnecessary burden for our more than 185,000 members who have been operating safely for decades.”
Task Force members representing commercial drone operators and the airline industry voiced support of the system. Task Force member Measure CEO Brandon Declet made this statement, citing the danger posed by the reported 700 drone sitings as good reason for the program: “We welcome the FAA’s announcement of a drone registration system that is accessible to all. We worked diligently on the Task Force to develop common sense recommendations and we are pleased to see the FAA worked quickly to have these rules put into affect for the holiday season.” Powerful lobbying group the Airline Pilots Association (ALPA) also commended the program, but stated that registration does not go far enough to ensure safety:
The Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA) commends today’s announcement by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that it will require the registration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) as a tool to help ensure that owners and operators fly their aircraft safely in skies they share with airliners carrying passengers and cargo. The FAA’s UAS registration requirement will facilitate the enforcement of regulations and demonstrate to purchasers the responsibility that comes with owning and operating a UAS in the U.S. national airspace.
While the registration requirement for UAS is a significant step forward, ALPA believes the rule will be most effective through a mandatory process at the point of sale. We support the registration-requirement development process and welcome the accountability that the FAA’s rule will establish for those who purchase a UAS. ALPA looks forward to working with the FAA and industry on a point-of-sale registration requirement in the future as a key element to make certain UAS owners and operators are aware of the rules and responsibility involved with the aircraft they purchase.
While interest groups and corporate entities published official statements, consumers also had their say. Comments ranged from the bitter to the humorous but most agreed that registration for their hobby was overkill, many declaring their intention to refuse to comply.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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